Thomas Rhett has country music’s first number-one album of 2017: Are we underestimating him at CMAs?

Thomas Rhett‘s star has been on the rise. The country music singer just debuted on top of the Billboard 200 albums chart with his third album, “Life Changes.” That’s the best result of his career so far, and it’s the first country album to top the chart in 2017. Rhett also happens to be a contender for three CMA Awards this year, but he’s an underdog in all three races. Are we underestimating him?

Rhett previously released two albums that peaked at number-six on the Billboard 200 albums chart and number-two on the country albums chart: “It Goes Like This” (2013) and “Tangled Up” (2015). That second album went platinum thanks in part to the breakthrough success of his single “Die a Happy Man,” which topped the country chart and peaked at number-21 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also won Single of the Year at the ACM Awards and CMA Awards in 2016.

In a recent interview, Rhett told Billboard, “It blows my mind to have a No. 1 album. I feel like we started working on this project the moment we put out [prior album] ‘Tangled Up’ in 2015, so it’s the end of a couple of years of hard work and growth. It’s an autobiographical album in a lot of ways, which makes it really personal.” That album was released too late to compete at this year’s CMAs, of course — it might be an ACM and CMA contender in 2018 — but Rhett nevertheless has a trio of CMA bids this year: Male Vocalist of the Year, Musical Event of the Year (“Craving You” featuring Maren Morris) and Music Video of the Year (also “Craving You”).

Rhett has yet to win Male Vocalist at the CMAs, but he did just upset Chris Stapleton for that prize at the ACM Awards earlier this year. Now heading into the fall with a number-one album — 2017’s first country chart-topper no less — might give him the momentum he needs to upset frontrunner Stapleton again, this time at the CMAs.

Be sure to make your CMA predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see this year’s contenders are faring in our CMA odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on November 8. And join the discussion on this and more taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our music forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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